As the world becomes increasingly interconnected there are a growing number of cross-border crises, for example international pandemics, terrorist threats, and climate change. In these instances, effective disaster response requires the coordination of multiple stakeholders across multiple countries, including first responders and civil protection bodies, as well as local authorities, researchers, and technology providers. Interoperability of crisis management systems, tools, and procedures is thus critical, in the sense that it enables the exchange of information between these different entities.
The STRATEGY project works with first responders to improve the interoperability of crisis management solutions and facilitate a harmonised approach to crisis management across the EU.
Achieving technical interoperability: what are the challenges?
Meeting interoperability requirements from a technological perspective has become a major challenge, but also a critical factor in promoting effective disaster response. Technical interoperability describes the capability of two or more information and communication technology (ICT) applications to exchange data and perform a given task without requiring operator intervention.
A major challenge for achieving technical interoperability is integrating two or more pre-existing systems that have been developed by different parties to cover different needs. Most likely, these systems will be different in nature. Therefore, a key element for successful interoperability is rigorous requirements definition focusing on intelligent systems. This will enable a semantically well-founded framework, allowing the interconnection of different systems, databases and external sources that exchange data and information in real-time.
In addition, effective crisis management requires timely and reliable information retrieval from diverse data sources, followed by the sharing of this information between organisations. To achieve this, organisations with different systems and processes (for example, command and control systems, sensor systems, operational guidelines, training processes) must work together and share knowledge, experience, tools and technology. However, without interoperable systems, tools, and technologies, information sharing between organisations can be a major challenge that is technologically complex, time-consuming and expensive.
Interoperability in practice
At present, there are a number of solutions in the crisis management domain that aim to improve interoperability and facilitate information exchange. However, many of these have been developed in Research & Development EU-funded projects or as commercial solutions. As such, these solutions are often not tested or validated in practice by the first responders who will actually be using them.
In order to address these technical challenges and improve interoperability in the crisis management domain, STRATEGY will work with end-users to validate and test the technical interoperability of crisis management solutions, in order to ensure efficient and effective information exchange between different stakeholder groups in a disaster scenario.
First, the STRATEGY project will perform a comprehensive technical cross-analysis of existing standards, technologies, tools, and processes, in order to identify promising crisis management standards, as well as gaps and opportunities for improvement. The main objective is not to have all organisations working in an identical way but rather to identify the best practices for interoperability and information exchange, while at the same time preserving the necessary autonomy of local organisations operating in their specific threat environment.
After selecting promising standards across 8 crisis management domains, STRATEGY will test and validate these selected standards in simulated disaster scenarios with first responders. This will ensure that the standards, technologies and tools are interoperable, and can be used efficiently across EU member states and beyond. Thereby, interoperability challenges will be addressed under real-life conditions using scenarios aiming to cover all crisis management areas identified throughout the project.
Author: Stefania Giannikou, ICCS
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 883520